Discovering D-Day At The Portsmouth D-Day Museum

By Ed Sexton | 24 November 2008
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picture of men in military costume

(Above) Re-enactors at the Portsmouth D-Day Museum © Portsmouth Museums and Records Service

From first hand experiences of war veterans through to hi-tech displays, discovering D-Day at the Portsmouth D-Day museum is a truly interactive experience.

The museum celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and will also be holding a series of events to commemorate the 65th anniversary of D-Day in 2009.

Collections include a huge range of pieces, from tiny buttons with compasses hidden inside them to the museum's centrepiece, the Overlord Embroidery, which depicts the D-Day landings.

“Portsmouth was one of the most important areas of the country during the D-Day landings. It was one moment in history where Portsmouth played a national and international role,” says Military History Officer Andrew Whitmarsh.

“The great thing about the museum is that so many veterans come to visit and we still have a number of Normandy veterans who come and talk to visitors.

“There is nothing better than hearing from the people that were there about their thoughts and experiences.”

picture of e jeep emerging from a World War Two glider

(Above) © Portsmouth Museums and Records Service

The museum also plays an important in the local community and has become an integral part of the curriculum studies. Thousands of school children and students visit the museum every year to learn more about life in the Second World War.

“Education has always been very important to the museum and we are redesigning our Home Front display, which around 3000 children visited last year for projects," adds Andrew.

“The Home Front is a subject that is of great interest and there are still lots of people around who remember what it was like to live and work during the war.

“Over the last few decades we have collected a large range of memorabilia and this is an opportunity to give the topic a much bigger showcase. The display doesn’t just apply to Portsmouth – it shows people what was happening nationally.”

The museum was one of only three in the country to be testing out a new hi-tech learning aid in 2006 and it has gone on to be a great success with visitors.

Ookl uses mobile phone technology to deliver 200 descriptions of tagged items around the museum and allows visitors to photograph any of the objects in the collection which are then transferred to the museum's website.

“The reaction to ookl has been very good," says Andrew. "We were worried that it may distract from the museum but teachers have been saying that it slows the groups down as they go through the museum and encourages pupils to look at objects that they might not normally have noticed.”

picture of an embroidery showing planes and a pillow case that shows the same scene

(Above) A scene of planes and warships from the Overlord Embroidery which inspired a student visitor to copy it onto a pillowcase. © Portsmouth Museums and Records Service

The project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Portsmouth City Council and a number of groups will be using OOKL through to 2010 to select objects in the museum to inspire their own artwork.

According to councillor Terry Hall, Executive member for Culture and Leisure, ookl will play a key role in shaping the future of the museum.

“Through their involvement, the young people will help shape the future of the museum, including producing a new a guide for residents and visitors,” he said.

picture of two ventriloquist dummies

(Above) World War Two dummy that was used to entertain the troops and his girlfriend made by school children © Portsmouth Museums and Records Service

“The project will take the museum out to the classroom and showcase its work, using the material for a range of different subjects including citizenship. Sharing this online will help to raise awareness of our rich heritage.”

Plans are already underway for the 65th anniversary of D-Day including talks from experts and a local sub aqua club will be diving into the Solent to look at tanks that never made it to D-Day.

Go to for further information.

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